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Starafrica’s $6m plant upgrade pays off

By Thomas Mupfuka

LISTED sugar producer Starafrica Corporation says its recently upgraded plant is already paying dividends as the company has seen an increase in market share in both the industrial and retail white sugar business.

The company’s head of marketing and sales Rebecca Matongo told Standardbusiness during a recent tour that the upgraded plant in Harare had helped increase starafrica’s market share to 80% in the industrial white sugar business while retail sugar remained at 20%.

She said this was because of the high cost of white sugar compared to brown sugar, which is dominant in the market due to pricing.

“From the improvements on our plant, we are enjoying a significant amount of our business from the industrial customers, mostly beverages
manufacturers locally and in the region,” Matongo said.

“These normally require one-tonne packs and even more and we are satisfying that market very well.

“On the retail white sugar business, the market is not responding well due to the price effects.

“White sugar requires more and thorough refining. this is contributing to the 20% market share in this business, but as we move forward
we are likely to see an improvement in this business.”

The capitalisation project saw the white sugar processor investing over US$6 million for the modernisation of the plant that was first
installed in 1954.

The modernisation of the plant has resulted in the improved quality, guaranteed food fortification and increased operational efficiencies
thanks to its latest features that include Resin Ion Exchange Technology and the Scada System with Automation.

The company’s technical services manager Khopolo Setopoli told Standardbusiness that the state-of-the-art machinery was churning out 450
tonnes of sugar per day(tpd) with expected full capacity of 600 tpd.

“Integrated Casetech Consultants (Pvt) Limited [ICCPL] of India was contracted in 2013 by the company to design, manufacture, install and
commission equipment covering primary plant, scope covered melting, clarification, filtration and decolourisation workstations to increase
throughput, enhance efficiency and improve quality,” he said.

“In terms of output, it’s rated capacity is 600 tpd, but due to some challenges we are currently working with 450 tpd.

“This means on average we are producing close to 19 tonnes per hour, which is enough for us to cater for our domestic and regional
markets.”

Setopoli, however, added that the plant needs reliable water and power supplies to refine raw sugar, which comes from the Hippo Valley
and Triangle sugar estates, in brown sugar format.

“The plant is not cheap to maintain, the sugar processing or refining process depends heavily on water and power,” he said.

“We depend heavily on water, per day we use close to one million litres of water as the process involves a lot of dissolving.

“And to date, we have sunk more than nine boreholes at our premises, but due to the low rainfall recorded last year, we are now relying on
Harare City Council to supply us.

“The heat we use here is mainly generated from the steam that we produce from our boilers, and these boilers are fired up by coal which we
buy from Hwange and the supply has been steady since this plant was completed.

“The project is bearing fruit and we are confident that despite the macroeconomic challenges, we will remain productive in coming
months.”

Earlier this month, starafrica MD Regis Mutyiri told this publication that the company was planning to aggressively expand its regional
footprint into new markets following enquiries from Zambia and Kenya.

“We have also received enquiries from Kenya and indications are that sales will materialise once the country-specific regulatory
requirements are met by the potential customers,” he said.

“Exports are ongoing into South Africa and we are now looking into increasing the number of customers in this market.

“We have also received tangible enquiries from the Zambia market for our sugar speciality syrups which include icing, castor, syrups,
honey and caramel, among other products.

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